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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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much of the literature, in turn, is more optimistic about the short-term prospects and options available to the developing countries than are the popular conceptions on these matters. Notably, no short-term absolute limitations on "resources" are discerned, and no particular products or expenditure categories are singled out for special attention. The problem of "malnutrition," for instance, is seen as a facet of low income levels in general, as even in the poorest countries the income elasticity of the demand for food is less than unity. The implications of high versus low fertility are envisaged not in terms of choice between "famine and catastrophe" versus "progress" but more correctly, and less dramatically, as a choice between slower and faster rates of economic growth. Nevertheless, paying more attention to longer-run problems would seem to require a remtroduction of many of the familiar classical considerations about size and resources into the debate on the economics of fertility reduction, and these considerations may again gain the upper hand over the concern with population structure and rate of growth as such. Optimistic assumptions as to the longer-run economic prospects for the less developed countries in no way lessen the pertinence of these remarks, as is suggested from the arguments in the next section.
Fourth and finally, according to the received theory there is astonishingly little difference between the various types of high-fertility countries in the magnitude of the potential gains that could be derived from lowering fertility. This attitude is, of course, partly a consequence of the exclusive emphasis placed upon population growth and structure as responsible for the gains: with respect to potential change in these demographic parameters, the less developed countries do exhibit a high degree of uniformity. Nevertheless, it is likely that the presumptions of insensitivity to vastly differing economic characteristics merely reflects the inadequacy of the underlying theoretical apparatus rather than the intrinsic nature of the mechanisms involved. Thus it can be shown that even the simplest disaggregation of the usual single-sector model customarily used to demonstrate the effect of fertility decline would point to important differences in the magnitude, if not in the direction, of these gains, depending on the initial economic conditions of the country affected—particularly the factor endowments which characterize the traditional sector or the nature of international trade relations. Therefore, extensive analysis of the economic effects of fertility change that utilizes more sophisticated and differentiated economic models is urgently needed.
Countries with Low Fertility
Considerations relating to the effects of fertility change occupy a distinctly modest place in debates on the short-term prospects of developed economies. On the one hand, concern with specific resource constraints, formerly a source of antinatalist impulses, has faded with the increasing recognition of